Teacher Qualifications, Requirements & Certifications

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Basic teaching requirements for becoming an ESL or EFL teacher are a university degree (teaching diploma) and an English as Second Language certification. There are several types of ESL certification, which, more or less, have the same prerequisites. But still, they do have some differences.

To avoid confusion, let’s analyze these TEFL, TESL, TESOL, and CELTA certifications and see how they differ from each other.

TEFL Certification

teacher qualifications

A TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification is required mostly in countries where English is not a native language, especially in China, Japan, and South Korea. These countries have a constant demand for TEFL certified teachers and offer competitive salary, which is above the standard market rate. If you are a native English-speaking teacher who wants to relocate abroad, then in most cases you need TEFL qualifications. Some countries don’t require a TEFL, but at the same time, they don’t offer legal employment.

Prerequisites that are needed for a TEFL certificate depend on the legislative system of the country where you are going to work. They can also depend on the institution that offers a TEFL course. In some countries, it’s enough just to be a native English speaker in order to become a TEFL qualified teacher. It’s also possible to undergo TEFL certification online, but some countries may not accept online certificates.

Please do not confuse TEFL with TOEFL – Test of English as a Foreign Language, which is passed by non-native English students and not by teachers.

TESL Certification

On the contrary to TEFL, a TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) certification is required mostly in countries where English is a native language, such as US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. In other words, if you are planning to remain in your home country and teach English to foreigners there, then TESL would be your best choice.

The prerequisites to become TESL certified can vary from country to country, so you need to study the teaching qualification requirements for your country. In most cases, you’ll need to undergo additional studies, including both theory and practice. You can also receive TESL certification online, but please study the requirements of your future employer beforehand to find out if they accept online certificates.

Read our article about the different teacher qualifications and certifications for becoming an ES/ EFL teacher.

TESOL Certification

A TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certification combines the features of both TEFL and TESL certifications. In other words, TESOL certified teachers can teach English to non-native speakers both in English-speaking countries and in countries where English is not a native language. If you haven’t decided whether you are planning to relocate, stay at home, or teach English online, then you’d better aim at TESOL. However, please be aware that in some non-native English countries you’ll get more employment chances with the TEFL certificate than with the TESOL certificate.

Again, the program of TESOL certification may vary from school to school. Your choice of the program may depend on your future employer and their requirements. It’s also possible to undergo TESOL certification online, but some countries and/or employers may require only classroom certification.

CELTA Certification

CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) is substantially the same as TESOL. The difference is that this certification is accredited by Cambridge University. CELTA is designed for:

  • Candidates with little or no previous experience teaching the English language.
  • Candidates with some English teaching experience, but not much training in teaching.
  • Candidates who wish to gain an internationally-recognized qualification.

The candidates should have English language skills at a level that equals at least C1, which  means effective operational proficiency. CELTA courses can be taken either on a full-time or on a part-time basis.

To summarize, the TEFL/TESL/TESOL terms are often used interchangeably, but it’s important to understand the differences:

  • TEFL is for teaching English as a foreign language in non-native English countries.
  • TESL is for teaching English as a second language to foreigners in native English countries.
  • TESOL is for teaching English as a foreign/second language in any country.
  • CELTA is a variant of TESOL that is accredited by Cambridge University.

What qualifications do you need to teach online?

It’s possible to receive ESL certification online. In addition to degree and certificate, an online English teacher should be proficient with internet-based technology and teaching tools. For example, they should know how to use document sharing services and messengers with screen sharing features.

Colleges and universities now are offering certificates and/or degrees in education with online emphasis. These certificates and degrees vary from certificates in teaching online, to a master’s degree in teaching online, to online education design and development.

VIPKID offers online English teaching opportunities to candidates who meet the following requirements:

  • Eligibility to work in the US or Canada.
  • Bachelor’s degree in any field.
  • 1 school year of traditional teaching experience or the equivalent in mentoring, tutoring, or alternative education.

For more information about teaching online with VIPKID, check out these frequently asked questions.


Earn up to $22 an Hour Teaching English from Home

29 COMMENTS

    • Hi!

      My name is Susan Hoffman. This program sounds like a perfect opportunity! !! I have a 4-year Linguistics degree, from the University of Pittsburgh and a TESOL certificate. I speak and have academically learned nd taught several languages, both to children and adults. I just recently moved to Israel. Is vipkid able to hire me?

  1. Hi! I have a question,

    I have finished the required classes for an Elementary Education degree at my University the only think I have left is student teaching. I plan on doing my student teaching September- December 2018 and the University won’t give me my official diploma until after I finish the student teaching process. I lived in China for four months in 2013 and taught 1st graders English with the (International Language Program) so I am familiar with the teaching process and loved my time over there. My question is… I would love to teach over the summer, but do I actually need my official degree? I am so close in the process of getting my diploma (10 credits away).

    • We get it can be pretty frustrating when you’re that that close. But ya, we do require all teachers to have obtained a university degree. But please do apply once you have that finished!

  2. VIPkid has truly blessed my family. Not only financially but it has been so rewarding teaching these students and learning about another culture. It is so flexible to teach off of my busy schedule running my own travel agency and my 2 little boys. It has been amazing. Thank you VIPkid!!!

  3. Teaching English a foreign language, or as a second language was not on my radar for a life path. Now having doing it for only 3 months, I am looking forward to continuing this in my life for a very long time. I keep telling my friends, this is my retirement plan! I have at least 12 years until then, but I’m looking forward to this path and journey!

  4. I love teaching my Chinese students while staying home and working out of my living room but in the future would also love to travel abroad to teach in China.

  5. HI
    I have a 4 year degree in Developmental Psychology. I began substitute teaching 4 years ago. The past 2 years I have been the Literacy Intern for an elementary school. Do I meet the requirements to teach for VipKids?

  6. […] TEFL means Teaching English as a Foreign Language. After you undergo TEFL training, you will receive a certificate with which you can teach English to non-native speakers abroad, for example, in China. If your native language is English and you want to relocate abroad, then in most cases you need ITTT TEFL review. Prerequisites for TEFL certification depend on the country where you are going to work. Please also keep in mind that some countries may not accept TEFL certificates resulting from online teacher training courses. […]

  7. I have two degrees, one being my Bachelors of Education. I am a certified teacher and have been a full time teacher for over 5 years. Do I need TEFL training to apply?

  8. I have a degree in General Studies with a minor in Education. My only teaching experience was several years ago teaching preschool park district classes, would I qualify for teaching at VIPKID?

  9. Hi,
    My name is Elmira and I live in Los Angeles, CA. I have over 17 year experience in the education system. I have been teaching since 2005, I have a bachelors degree in Liberal studies- education, over 30+ units in Child Development, and in the process of earning my early childhood special education credential fall of 2018, as well as I have been privately tutoring students pre-k to 5th grade in all subjects, but mainly in English (phonics, reading, writing, and comprehension and Mathematics). I am very interested in continuing to share my passion and help other children at different counties. Therefore, I was wondering if this would be a good fit for me? If so, I would greatly appreciate if you can guide me on how I can apply.
    I look forward on hearing from you guys soon.
    Thank you,
    Elmira Bagaryan

  10. I am a 25 year veteran teacher. I have a degree in elementary education, another masters in special education, diagnostician, and am an administrator for Bilingual education. I have taught art, reading, title I and am a bilingual director. I also have credits toward a PhD. I want to make sure I qualify before I begin setting up a teaching corner to do the mock lessons and demonstrate my ability to animate the lessons for kids.

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